Twenty-two graduate students and recent graduates have landed the opportunity to work in the pivotal intersection of marine science and policy in California. As participants in the competitive California Sea Grant State Fellowship program, students are matched with a host agency to gain “on the job” experience during the 12-month paid fellowship.
“We are facilitating the training and development of the next generation of ocean and coastal leaders to meet challenges unique to our state,” said California Sea Grant Director Jim Eckman. “With our largest cohort yet, and new hosts including the Port of San Diego and Fish and Game Commission, we continue to invest in strategic partnerships with California agencies involved with marine and coastal resource policy.”
The 2017 California Sea Grant State Fellowship awardees are:
Heather Benko, California Fish and Game Commission
Heather Benko graduated from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies’ joint master’s degree program in business and environmental policy in 2015. Benko previously completed fellowships with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Environmental Defense Fund.
At the Fish and Game Commission, Benko will conduct outreach and communications to stakeholders and partners, and assist in the creation of well-informed ocean and coastal resource policy.
Sara Briley, Ocean Protection Council – Climate Change
Sara Briley earned a Master of Science in biology from California State University, Fullerton, in 2015. Her thesis focused on the impact of native Olympia oyster restoration on co-occurring eelgrass. During graduate school, Briley worked as the marine restoration director at Orange County Coastkeeper where she led efforts to restore oyster and eelgrass habitats in the county.
Briley will coordinate Ocean Protection Council projects related to climate change, particularly those regarding ocean acidification, hypoxia, and sea level rise. She will also assist with the implementation and advancement of recommendations from the West Coast Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Science Panel.
Eva Bush, Delta Stewardship Council – Planning Division
Eva Bush will earn a master’s degree in ecology from the University of California, Davis, in 2017. While in graduate school, Bush worked in a fish ecology research lab focusing on otolith isotope chemistry. Her thesis examined the migratory life histories and early growth of the endangered estuarine delta smelt.
During her fellowship with the Delta Stewardship Council, Bush will help develop amendments regarding ecosystem restoration and Delta conveyance to the Delta Science Plan.
Catherine Courtier, Delta Science Program – Delta Science Plan
Catherine Courtier received a Master of Advanced Studies in marine biodiversity and conservation from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in 2016. Her thesis focused on the creation of a framework for the economic, cultural and biological valuation of marine species used by multiple competing resource users, which would then enable policymakers and the public to gain a deeper understanding of how our ocean resources are changing, and how to better value them.
At the Delta Science Program, Courtier will facilitate conversations amongst stakeholders about the future of the Delta's resources, as well as detail how science is being used in Delta ecosystem restoration and water management decisions.
Elizabeth Duncan, NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary – Research Department
Elizabeth Duncan will earn a Master of Science in biology from California State University, Long Beach, in 2017. As an undergraduate, Duncan discovered an interest in the intersection of science and policy while interning for the NOAA’s Montrose Settlements and Restoration Program Outreach Coordinator. While in graduate school, Duncan developed a mechanistic model of topographical and environmental controls on body temperature of black abalone and quantified associated risks of thermal stress and disease to individuals on rocky shores.
As a State Fellow at the NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, Duncan will help assess the condition of the sanctuary and its services to stakeholders, and help the sanctuary to reach their science, education, conservation, and stewardship goals.
Esther Essoudry, State Lands Commission – Science Policy and Tribal Liaison
Esther Essoudry graduated from the University of San Francisco in 2016 with a Master of Science in environmental management. Her thesis evaluated innovative economic and policy opportunities to fund coastal habitat restoration to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
At the State Lands Commission, Essoudry will work on the science policy team, focusing on projects regarding climate change, sea level rise adaptation, ocean protection planning, and offshore renewable energy.
Aubrie Fowler, NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary – Resource Protection
Aubrie Fowler earned her master’s degree in biological sciences with a concentration on marine biology and fisheries from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in 2016. Fowler’s thesis was a study of the proteomic response of California mussel gills to aerial anoxia following an acclimation to either subtidal or tidal conditions.
As part of the NOAA Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection group, Fowler will assist with updating the management plan as mandated by the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. Additionally, Fowler will coordinate with local, regional, and national levels including participation in Sanctuary Advisory Council meetings.
Elizabeth Gagneron, State Coastal Conservancy – Climate Ready Program
Elizabeth “Liz” Gagneron earned a master’s degree in marine science from Moss Landing Marine Labs in 2016. Gagneron was the education assistant at the Center for Ocean Solutions, where she helped run the Monterey Area Research Institutions' Network for Education (MARINE) program. Her thesis explored the possibility of using nucleic acids as biomass and viability indicators for plankton after ballast water treatments, especially UV systems.
Gagneron will coordinate reviews of existing projects, and develop and manage additional pilot projects under the Climate Ready Grant Program.
Tova Handelman, Ocean Protection Council – Marine Protected Areas
Tova Handelman earned a master’s degree in coastal and marine resources management with a focus on strategic environmental communication and media from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016. Her group thesis work evaluated citizen science as a method for monitoring the rocky intertidal zone.
At the Ocean Protection Council, Tova will help manage an ongoing effort among several state agencies and partners to collaborate on the long-term management of marine protected areas (MPAs).
Andrew Hill, State Water Resources Control Board – Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program
Andrew Hill received a Master of Science in applied marine science and policy from California State University, Monterey Bay, in 2016.
Hill will work with 2015 National Coastal Condition Assessment data and investigate the application of new spatial analyses. The dataset represents a large effort to develop the understanding of the dynamic relationship between human activities, a changing climate, and coastal resources such as water quality and recreational opportunities.
Jaimie Huynh, State Lands Commission – Executive Office
Jaimie Huynh received a Master of Advanced Studies in climate science and policy from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in 2016. Upon graduation, Huynh served as a marine technician and studied the heat transport of the California current. Previously, Huynh monitored discharge sites, and applied data to urban planning and best management practices as an intern for the City of San Diego’s Stormwater Department.
Huynh will help State Lands Commission staff understand how to apply knowledge of sea level rise into their work when granting leases. Additionally, she will work closely with the Port of San Diego to expand their ocean planning initiatives.
William Jones, Port of San Diego – Aquaculture
William Jones earned a doctorate in oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in 2016. As a graduate student researcher, Jones produced two first-author scientific publications and developed a novel solution for assessing historic fish populations using fish otoliths (a.k.a. earstones).
As a State Fellow with the Port of San Diego, Jones will help plan and pre-develop pilot-scale aquaculture projects in San Diego Bay.
Kerstin Kalchmayr, State Coastal Conservancy – South Coast Program
Kerstin Kalchmayr earned a master’s degree in geography with a concentration in resource management and environmental planning from San Francisco State University in 2016. For her master’s research, Kalchmayr investigated the abundance and distribution of invasive Limonium ramosissimum (LIRA) throughout San Francisco Bay wetlands. On a smaller scale, she also examined LIRA’s impacts to native species and soil properties. She subsequently spent a season working as a field biologist for the San Francisco Bay Invasive Spartina Project, targeting invasive hybrid Spartina for eradication.
As a fellow with the State Coastal Conservancy, South Coast division, Kalchmayr will collaborate with scientists, wetland restoration managers, and various stakeholders to update the regional strategy blueprint for wetland recovery in southern California.
Melissa Kent, Ocean Science Trust
Melissa Kent will receive a Master of Arts in geography with a concentration in resource management and environmental planning from San Francisco State University in 2017. During graduate school, Kent helped develop a citizen science program for data collection of large whales off the West Coast with NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service West Coast Region. Her thesis explored the abilities and desires of the whale watching industry of northern and central California to collect data on the whales they see, using participatory GIS.
At the Ocean Science Trust, Kent will be working with the Science Advisory Team as they focus on harmful algal blooms and fisheries impacts, and incorporate traditional ecologic knowledge into marine protected area management.
Heather Kramp, Port of San Diego
Heather Kramp will earn a master’s degree in marine science with an emphasis in fish ecology from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in 2017. Kramp’s thesis examines the kelp forest fish community production along the California coast, and uses community production as a novel metric for assessing ecosystem health inside and outside of California's marine protected areas.
Kramp will work on the Port's aquaculture program, marine spatial planning initiatives, and wetland restoration projects.
Tricia Lee, Delta Science Program – Independent Science Board
Tricia Lee earned a Master of Science in marine biology from San Francisco State University in 2016. Her research focused on biogeochemical cycling and microbial communities in the San Francisco Bay-Delta ecosystems. Upon graduation, Lee interned at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and lectured at the California Maritime Academy.
During her fellowship with the Delta Science Program, Lee will support the efforts of the Independent Science Board in providing analysis of the best available science to inform management.
Bonnie Ludka, California Coastal Commission
Bonnie Ludka earned a doctorate in physical oceanography from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, in 2016. Her thesis explored wave-driven beach sand level changes in southern California. After graduation, Ludka worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
At the California Coastal Commission, Ludka will draw from her experience with coastal processes and sediment transport to help the staff address concerns related to sediment management and shoreline protection. This project will identify appropriate and effective solutions to address flooding and erosion, which will likely be exacerbated by rising sea level and climate change. Solutions could include soft protection techniques like beach nourishment and living shorelines.
Lorna McFarlane, State Water Resources Control Board – Division of Water Quality
Lorna McFarlane received a Master of Science in biology from California State University, Northridge, in 2016. McFarlane’s thesis explored predictions regarding the metabolic response of Zebrasoma scopas to warming waters.
McFarlane will work with the State Water Resources Control Board, Ocean Unit, studying nutrient loading and assisting with the final stages of the statewide Mercury Program.
Matthew Savoca, NOAA NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center
Matthew Savoca will earn a doctorate in ecology from the University of California, Davis, in 2017. His dissertation research focused on marine chemical ecology—specifically how algal-produced sulfur compounds affect diet composition, nutrient recycling, and plastic debris consumption in marine wildlife, focusing on tube-nosed seabirds and forage fish.
At the NOAA NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center, Savoca will assist the Environmental Research Division develop, disseminate, and implement fishing practices that minimize bycatch of sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals off the coast of California.
Lily Tsukayama, Port of San Diego – Ocean Planning
Lily Tsukayama earned a Master of Environmental Science and Management with specializations in coastal marine resources management and economics and politics of the environment from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016. Her group thesis work evaluated vessel speed reduction, whale strikes, and air pollution tradeoffs in the Santa Barbara Channel Region.
Tsukayama will work with the Port's planning team and various stakeholders on ocean planning efforts off the coast of San Diego.
Sloane Viola, Office of Lt. Governor Newsom
Sloane Viola earned a master’s degree in ecology, evolution, and marine biology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2016. Viola studied the role of anthropogenic disturbance in the establishment of a non-native species on offshore oil platforms.
Viola will assist the Office of the Lieutenant Governor with decisions related to offshore energy and the State Lands Commission.
Heidi Williams, Delta Science Program – Water Supply and Science Communications
Heidi Williams received a Master of Arts in international environmental policy with a concentration in ocean and coastal resource management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in 2016. During graduate school, Williams worked as a research assistant on offshore renewable energy for the National Ocean Economics Program (NOEP) and completed a Center for the Blue Economy Fellowship working on nonmarket ocean economics at the National University of Ireland- Galway. Upon graduation, Williams worked at National Geographic Learning to communicate science to elementary students through the development of a new series of National Geographic Reading and Science textbooks.
At the Delta Science Program, Williams will help improve science communications to more effectively inform policy and management decisions, build the Delta science community, and inform the public about the Bay-Delta system.